The poor spatial resolution of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) makes it difficult to distinguish two closely located cortical areas from each other. Here, a combination of multi-channel NIRS and a centre of gravity (CoG) approach (widely accepted in the field of transcranial magnetic stimulation; TMS) was used to discriminate between closely located cortical areas activated during hand and foot movements. Similarly, the possibility of separating the more anteriorly represented discrete movements from rhythmic movements was studied. Thirteen healthy right-handed subjects performed rhythmic or discrete (‘task’) hand or foot (‘extremity’) tapping. Hemodynamic responses were measured using an 8-channel NIRS setup. For oxyhemoglobin (OHb) and deoxyhemoglobin (HHb), a CoG was determined for each condition using the mean hemodynamic responses and the coordinates of the channels. Significant hemodynamic responses were found for hand and foot movements. Based on the HHb responses, the NIRS-CoG of hand movements was located 0.6 cm more laterally compared to the NIRS-CoG of foot movements. For OHb responses no difference in NIRS-CoG was found for ‘extremity’ nor for ‘task’. This is the first NIRS study showing hemodynamic responses for isolated foot movements. Furthermore, HHb responses have the potential to be used in multi-channel NIRS experiments requiring differential activation of motor cortex areas linked to either hand or foot movements. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.